Curious Requests

Title: Curious Requests
Time Period: October 134 A.E.
Characters Appearing:

Summary: A patron at the Dovetail asks for things that are not quite ordinary.

While The Dovetail is fairly quiet during the day, at night the place lights up, a beacon and an open invitation. Inside, a few of the girls sit in the den, some playing welcoming music while the others chat and look generally alluring. Among them is a brown haired girl sitting mostly to herself; although she does engage the others from time to time, Mariah seems to be more interested in a book laying open on her lap. And looking generally alluring, of course.

It's late enough that many of the girls are already taken for the evening, or at least for a time, but not so late that they're turning people away. And while the girls left down stairs seem to be enjoying the night off, they're all still open to work, given how attentive they are to the sound of the door.

It wasn't hard to get directions to the Dovetail. Most the men, whether patrons or not, at least knew where it happened to be, letting the newer resident in on the secrets of the house of ladies. Some even had personal recommendations, though Cas Blackburn doesn't even remember which names by the time he reaches the place on foot.

The door opens to let in cool autumn air as he steps inside, brown eyes casting around almost shyly. His clothes are full of patches and tears, but he picked his cleanest work clothes to wear. Even then there's scratches in the leather and a rip or two that has yet to be mended. His hair hangs below his ears, in now dried tangles. The rain had been brief, but long enough to make his walk damp. Oddly enough, he's brought a dark backpack slung on his back, though he's otherwise unarmed. The sight of the woman reading draws his eyes from those just looking generally alluring.

As he gets closer, he clears his throat. The young man could really use a shave. Not to mention a bath. "Excuse me— uh— are— what are you reading?" Yes, he's stuttering, with an accent that sturs of the the north of England.

The ones that bring their own equipment are the most interesting. Brows lift, less in surprise and more in amusement, as Cas crosses the room. When he addresses Mariah, she looks up. takes in his appearance in a quick glance and her expression melts into a warm smile. "Shakespeare," she says, lifting the book to show an old, worn cover that proclaims HAMLET in big letters.

Mariah lifts from her chair, stepping just a bit closer to him, "I'm Mariah. I hope you weren't looking for a library." It's a gentle teasing, her smile turning a touch crooked, but her tone oddly comforting even so. The others might titter a little, but she doesn't seem to react to the other girls in the room.

"Cas," the young man gives his name immediately, breaking eye contact for a moment to look around, as if trying to make sure no one's watching him. From the way he bites down on his lower lip, he may not be entirely comfortable in this place, even if he's here. His teeth are the cleanest part about him though, oddly enough. As if he spends more time scrubbing his teeth than his hands or his face.

A hands partially covered by a fingerless glove raises up, allowing bare fingers to scratch at his stubble before he looks back. "I'm not here for a library, but— Are you free tonight? I… just got paid. I have the labor strips, but I also have a few other things— I'm not asking for much. Just— I'll need about an hour."

His voice sounds even younger than he probably is, and he's probably grateful for the partial beard on his cheeks. But that doesn't stop his earlobes from turning pink.

Mariah reaches a hand out to his arm, squeezing gently. "You don't have to be nervous." Her hand holding the book clutches at her skirts, lifting them up just enough to make it easier to walk. "I'm free. Why don't we go upstairs? We can worry more about time limits on your second visit," she adds, before she tips her head toward the stairs for him to follow.

"I haven't seen you around before. Are you new to Dornie? I usually make a point of meeting all the handsome young men in town," she smiles wider there, as she leads the way up to a room. It's clear she's trying to make him feel more comfortable and less… stutter-y.

The tone seems to at least make him stop flushing. But there's still a sheepish hint to the way he bites his lower lip, and looks back behind them as they walk up the stairs. Cas looks back over as she asks her questions, which is when he speaks again. The stuttering does seem less, but now she has to deal with an all new creature.

"Yes, I'm new— I just arrived a month ago, or there abouts. A fortnight and a half, I guess." He pauses, touching his face with the bare fingers. "Not even sure that's a proper way of telling time, but there you have it. I was on the road for most the summer. Got a job with Edmund Rowntree, working with the horses. I like working with horses." When he doesn't stutter, it seems he's a rambler.

"Any way's the proper way, so long as it gets the point across, yes?" Mariah can't help but smile at his rambling, whether it's an act or not, she seems endeared by this one. "That's a good job to catch, you're very lucky. And I'm flattered that you found your way here so soon," she says, turning his way as she stops in front of a door. "Hopefully, you'll find it a hospitable place."

She opens the door there, revealing a simple room with a bed, a table and chairs, some drink ready and a bit of art on the walls. "Make yourself comfortable," she notes, by way of inviting him in.

"Seems like a good horse-owner. I've seen pitiful ones, but Rowntree respects his," Cas says quietly as he steps into the doorway but does not cross the threshold fully, cause his eyes are scanning the room, as if looking for something. "Uh— do you have one with a bathtub?" he asks suddenly, still standing in the doorway.

The stutter may not be as bad, but now he's rushing to explain, voice gaining a pitch. "That's why I'm here. People in places— women here— you all smell so nice. And I want to smell nice. I haven't smelled nice since— for months now. I brought some clothes I want to change into, too, but I— want to be clean first, see?" He's able to keep from blushing, but from the expression on his face he's waiting to get laughed at.

"Of course. We have baths, if you want to start there," Mariah says. she isn't laughing at him. She just slips the bag from his shoulders to set it inside the room. "You won't need that change of clothes for a while yet, however." She doesn't mention that they have robes, she just lets her smile turn a little sly and links her arm in his to lead him off toward the baths.

There's a moment when his eyes follow the bag, as if he's reluctant to let it out of his sight. Cas doesn't have many possessions to his name, but what he has… is right there. Minus a few things he left behind at the Rowntree's. "I don't think you understand, my lady," he says, looking down as he follows toward the bath. "I don't want— much more than that. The bath. And…

"I'd like to listen to you read while I bathe. I was going to ask you to before— that's why I approached you. Your voice is really nice…" Finally he looks back up at her, the smile sheepish, but making a dimple appear under the stubble. "But you don't have to… take your clothes off or anything."

That request does get a blink of surprise from her and Mariah pauses to turn toward him. "That's all you want?" It seems to be a bit of rhetoric, though, because she pulls it together a moment later and smiles his way again. It's good business practice not to poke fun at anyone's odd, harmless requests, after all. "I do believe I can accommodate you, Cas. It would, in fact, be my pleasure to. Did you have a particular passage in mind?" There is a glance back toward the pack there, but back to him again a moment later.

"And feel free to mention it, should you change your mind about my clothes," and that brings back the crooked smile, but it's more amusement than seduction.

From the relief in his eyes, Cas may have been expecting at least a laugh. "Yeah— yeah that's all. Well, more or less all, there is still one more thing, I'll also want help getting dressed, even if I'll probably change back into… this before I leave. I don't want to ruin my best clothes walking back. I just want to wear them for a bit. They remind me of…"

He trails off, shaking his head as he moves further into the room with the bath, already beginning to peal his clothes off. Pale skin, very little hair visible, he's more lean than anything else, wiry muscles. A deep scar stands out on his left wrist, as if his hand got caught in a rope at one point, signs of knicks and bruises, and small scars, but not enough to indicate battle.

"You can read whatever you were on," he adds. "I— just want to hear you read, really, doesn't matter what."

"Easily done," Mariah nods softly to his requests, intrigued a bit by the innocence of it all. It's a rare thing, to have the men who come here not want to at least see their girl naked. But as he starts to undress, she takes it upon herself to ready the bath, setting out soaps and cloths that help them all smell as good as they do. There is a robe hanging on a coat rack, which is probably how she intends to get him back to the other room, and she pulls over a small wooden stool to settle next to the tub.

Once she's sitting down, she flips her book open again, although she holds it up this time, better to keep her eyes on the room, too, instead of just her lap. "It's a little dark, I hope you don't mind," she says before she turns to the book and starts to recite. "Oh, what a noble mind is here overthrown. The coutier's, soldier's, scholar's eye, tongue, sword; the expectancy and rose of the fair state, the glass of fashion and the mould of form, the observed of all observers, quite, quite down. And I, of ladies most deject and wretched, that sucked the honey of his music vows, now see that noble and more sovereign reason, like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh…"

Most of the washing is done outside of the bath. Towels and soaps scrubbing away dirt that Cas could never quite get rid of, getting the smell of horses, however much he likes it, off. Replacing it with sweet scents. Rather than the musky scents that men prefer, he seems to have a nose for the sweet flowery smells.

Her honey voice calms him, comforts him, and leave drains the tension from his muscles, even before he settles down to soak in the water. For a time, it seems he might fall asleep there, with his eyes closed, before he suddenly moves, ducking himself deep into the water while she turns the page, and comes up with his hair wet.

Rubbing his hands over his face and through his hair, he reaches for the soap again— this time for his hair. Hair clean, but still wet, he steps out of the tub and begins to dry himself, still listening to her read. Only when he slips the robe on does he finally look at her fully, much cleaner and definitely better smelling. And with a relaxed expression on his face. "Do you happen to have scissors and a razor? I could use a shave and a haircut. If you want you can do that part. I imagine you'd like to rest your voice." Even if part of him regrets that she'll stop talking.

Mariah carries on reading until he addresses her, when she closes the book again. When she stands up, she pats the stool she was on for him to sit on instead while she opens a drawer where the hair cutting supplies are. "I can always rest my voice later, although it is difficult to read when ones hands are busy. We can always just talk, though," she mentions as she steps back over to him with her supplies on a little rolling table. He must not be the first to request a shave and a haircut.

That much would probably surprise him if he was. Before he treks over, he picks something up out of the pile of clothes. Cas touches the wiry rough partial beard with his fingers as he settles down into the stool. "I'd like that— you really do have a lovely voice. Your accent— it's really quite nice. Are you from here originally?" As he sits, he drops what he picked up around his neck. A braided leather necklace with a small silver cross hanging from it.

"Thank you," she says to the compliment, circling around behind him as he sits down. Her first order of business is to comb out his hair, gently smoothing out whatever tangles are left after his bath. "I'm from the south. Beyond London," or what's left of London, anyway, "And my mother was French. But I have lived here for some time. I may be a little stubborn about my accent, I admit."

Her touch is soft as she slides her fingers through his hair, bringing the blades of her scissors to cut his hair in quick snips. Locks fall to the floor, she doesn't even seem to mind them hitting her bare feet. But then, by the look of things, she's far too focused on his experience to worry about her own. "I would guess that you aren't from Scotland, either. In fact, I would put money on it."

"Not too short," Cas adds after a few seconds, avoiding head motions however much he's tempted to make them in response, eyes closing in fact as he responds, as if he wants to just feel her making the motions rather than see it.

"I'm from the south too— north of London, but— still the south. In Yorkshire— the town was called Keighley. We… owned a small herd, but my family were farmers mostly. What horses we had were mares, for breeding mules. I loved working with the horses— even the jacks and the mules, but the mares especially. I didn't really want to be a farmer or get involved in the trade of…"

With his mouth still open, he actually makes a grimace that wrinkles his nose. "Sorry— Uh— your mother is from France, do you speak French?"

While he talks, Mariah carries on, making sure not to cut it too short, as requested. "We used to run up to that area. My father was a merchant." But mostly, she lets him carry on, at least until he stops himself. "You don't have to apologize, Cas. This is a place where you can just relax. And with me, you never have to worry about being proper or any such thing." It's just a moment of gentle reassurance.

"Oui, je peux parler francais. Ma mere m'a appris," she answers, which whether or not he understands at least gives a clear yes on the matter. "I admit a fondness for the language. But tell me, what is it about farming that didn't catch your fancy?"

"I didn't understand a word of that," Cas says with a laugh that almost reaches a high pitch of a giggle for a second. The relaxation helps him not feel too embarassed about giggling. In fact the longer he's around her the less he thinks she would ever make him feel embarrassed. About anything.

Which is probably why he tells his story. "My da wanted me to get married. Part of my family's success was in… selling daughters. My older sister— she was sold off to get married when I was thirteen— that's when I realized why there were no women in our extended family older than fifteen. My cousins and such. My da and my uncles— they sold their daughters. When I said I thought it was wrong, da said they'd been doing it for three generations— brothers and sons and cousins all working the land together, trading their daughters for brides or horses or food. Da was planning to buy me a wife, force me to stay and carry on the family tradition, but I ran away instead. Tried to take my baby sister with me, but… she didn't want to go. She gave me this to remember her by." His hand toys with the cross around his neck. "It's the only thing I have left of my family."

Suddenly he laughs and can't help but shake his head. "I've never told anyone that so soon after meeting them. Only really told one person ever…"

"You're very brave, taking a stand like that. Or stubborn, I can't quite decide which. Or which I'd like better," Mariah says, her fingers running through his wet, but much less wild hair. When he laughs, she leans over, her arms resting on either shoulder, scissors dangling lazily from one hand as she peers at him a little. "Well, I'm flattered, then. It's a good story," she notes before she points toward the cross. "May I?" She asks before touching it at all, or even looking at it terribly close, as if wary of treading on some sacred memory.

"Oh, of course," Cas says, looking down at the mention of her potentially liking him, allowing her to handle the cross. It's both small and simple in form, with no engravings. All silver, kept shiny and polished, but with wear from being held a lot over the last decade. "I had to trade the chain, but I managed to keep the cross. It's the only thing I won't trade. Well— that or my shirt."

Brown eyes meet hers, and his breathing catches a few times. Lips part as his hand rises up, the back of his fingers lightly brushing the side of her cheek, the trail of her jaw. "Would you— " This time the catch in his voice isn't a stutter, but instead a tightening caused by something else. "Would you mind if I visit again? In the morning— so I can clean up and listen to you read before spending my day off in town."

After the okay, Mariah's fingers pick up the cross, and she takes a moment to look it over. "It's lovely," she says softly as she sets it back down and lets her fingers rest against his chest instead. "It's little wonder that you cherish it."

She meets his gaze in return and leans into that gentle touch, her smile just barely there. "I wouldn't mind at all. Visit whenever you'd like. Perhaps I'll borrow a different book from one of the other girls just for the occasion."

"I'd like that," Cas says in whispered tones, voice thicker than before. She may be able to make him feel comforted and safe, but this has as much to do with feeling that way as anything else. The fingers stroke another long second, before dropping away. "I'll visit as often as I can. On my day off."

With a slow inhale, he tries to get rid of some of the tension, so that he can smile, boyishly. But she can feel his heart thumping faster and louder under her palm.

"I'll look forward to it." That much isn't a line; he may not know it or even guess at it, but he's the most pleasant client she's had in all her time here. Mariah lingers there a moment, close and draped over him like a shall, but after that smile, she straightens again. Although, not without letting a hand trail along the robe's fabric.

And really, it's only a short reprieve, since she only moves to exchange scissors for a foam covered brush and a razor. "Do you plan in settling in here, then? Or are we just a stop along the road for a time?" She asks as she spreads the foam over the beard that's grown.

As her hand moves away, Cas' breathing slows back down. Not too drastic a change, but noticable. Closing his eyes, he relaxes his face into the later and the impending razor, speaking carefully so as not to move much. "I'll stay as long as I can— long as I got work, really. I'd been looking for a good horselord since I left Grimsby. And Master Rowntree is the first decent one I'd found. And he hired me."

For a moment, he smiles, but then let's that settle back down. No need to make her job too difficult. "Long as I got a job, I'll be here. How long have you been here?"

"I've been here for some fifteen years now. I was just a young thing when we joined a caravan to Scotland. Heard Dornie was a good town." Mariah sets aside the brush and brings the razor to his skin instead. Still from behind, probably because it's easier from that angle, especially since he's not worried about seeing her naked like others might. "We went to school, my mother taught us French, my father wanted us to take over his merchant caravan," she takes her turn to ramble, since he can't while she's working on that shave. "I will warn you. We get cold in the winter. Best to find a warm fire to curl up next to most days. Or a warm body." Either seems acceptable in her mind. And hey, they have both here at the Dovetail.

The mention of warm fires and bodies makes an unconscious twitch of the corner of his mouth. Cas might be about to smile, or say something, but the razor getting rid of the wiry black hair is keeping him distracted. His chin even raises to allow better access to his neck. Only when she wipes off the remaining lather does he dare speak again. And that is a smile, dimpling his cheek more noticably now that his skin is bare.

"I'll find a way to keep warm." And while there's temptation in his eyes, he seems to be able to restrain it. Or perhaps he doesn't believe he could afford a night here. "Did you find that they were right? That it's a good town?"

Once his face is clean and the razor is set aside, Mariah drapes over his shoulders again, although her smile is a bit wry this time. "I'm still here." It's something of an answer, anyway. Her fingers brush against his cheek this time, and she gives a firm nod. "I think you're passable as a gentleman now," she says, her voice a gentle tease.

A passable gentleman that smiles widely and flashes clean teeth. Cas may have been able to pass as his age with a beard, but now he looks young again. Even more as the smile crinkles his eyes. "I'd look even better in my best shirt," he says with a laugh. He leaves out that it's his only passaible shirt with no patches or holes. Or even missing buttons.

"I'm glad you're still here," he adds, a little more seriously as he stands up, not tall, but taller than her at least. "And that you seem to like it here." There's a hint of a question to that statement, his head tilting to the side (with newly shortened hair spiking up every which direction).

"We'll see about that," Mariah says, her own smile widening with that flash of teeth. When he stands up, though, she looks up at him, her smile softening. "I like it right now," she says, which is also not exactly an answer, but she doesn't really seem at all unhappy.

Her fingers reach up to try to tame some of those hairs, and she laughs just a little when they refuse to behave themselves. But her gaze settles on his face again and she tilts her head a little. "Shall we get you dressed again?"

"Yes, definitely," Cas says after a pause that may have been just a little too long, as she touches his hair and as she laughs. It's almost as if it took a while for her words to process. As he turns away, he runs a hand over his hair, and for a moment it seems like it might stay down, until it curls back up on the sides. Just enough curl in his hair to cause issues.

Breaking contact, he moves back toward the bedroom, bare feet padding along as he bends to open his bag and pull out two things. A pile of thin, nice fabric in an odd red, purple, orange and gold paisley print that shakes out into a button up shirt, and then a pair of… dark purple striped slacks. The slacks aren't quite as nice, with visible hemming in a few sections, but clean and unstained. And a pair of light shorts to act as underwear, as well.

Mariah comes along, of course, and when he pulls out his clothes, she takes them from him herself. "I love these," she says as she takes them over to the bed, "I tire of the militia and their drab cloaks." When she turns back his way, her hand reaches out to tug on the robe a little. "If this is what you're planning to go into town with tomorrow, I may just have to find a way to ogle."

There's that smile again. And for an instant Cas almost seems to bounce a little as he rocks in his stance. It stops as her hands touch the robe. "I— I'm glad you like it. Not everyone seems to, but I like colors. Reds and blues and…" He trails off, breath catching as he watches her for a moment. With a shake of his head he recovers. "There's also a… scarf in there. It works as a tie." More or less. But he doesn't retrieve that. It isn't that difficult to find. Also in a nicer fabric, though thin and a single color of dark red.

"Not everyone has taste, apparently," Mariah says, and she looks more than a little amused as he shakes his head and tries to settle down. But, she's not about to let that last for too long, at least, not while he's here, because her fingers find the tie to that robe and after just a moment's glance as a warning, she gives that a little tug, too. Just enough to untie it. She turns just enough to pluck up the shirt, which is apparently where she's going to begin in this endeavor. "A tie, too? I do hope you have plenty of occasions to get into your best clothes. At least when the horses aren't around."

"I— " Cas' voice catches as the robe drops to the floor, leaving him wearing only a necklace that certainly doesn't cover anything. And this time she's not distracted with reading. Biting down on his lower lip again, he half-smiles, but it seems sheepish, even shy. "I— if the town has any festivals, dances or parties that common stable hands would get invited to, I totally will." It seems he's not sure his words make sense, cause he keeps talking. "Wear this. I mean. The clothes I'm about to wear not— "

Mariah laughs there, her palm pressing against his chest for a moment. "I think you should wear this. It'd be a huge success, I wouldn't be surprised." She moves to help him into his shirt then, although she doesn't button it just yet. Not until she has his pants on, too, which she (at least) isn't shy about getting him into and buttoning herself.

She even moves to get the scarf before she gets around to finishing his shirt.

Shy or not, he's almost frozen when it gets to that point, as if he's afraid to move much beyond stepping into the various levels of cover. Cas may not even feel safe watching her, cause his eyes wander to the ceiling and stay there until she moves back to get the scarf. The shirt fits well, but hangs long over his wrists, covering the scarring on his left side, and almost covering his hands as well as the fingerless gloves he'd worn before.

"Do you have those things here? Parties and all? Cause I do like to dance. Don't get to do it often, but— I've been told I'm passable." His smile recovers a bit, even allowing him to raise his eyebrows expressively.

When she can look at his face again, Mariah nods lightly. "We do sometimes. People in the town do, too. Now and then. When there's reason. But if dancing is what you're after, any night down at the pub with enough drink and enough music." That scarf loops around his neck and she starts to tie it, practiced but it stays loose. "I happen by there, from time to time. On my days off."

Likely, she's got more practice tying a tie than he ever did. The fabric doesn't have creases of use that would show it's been worn correctly often. Likely he just ties it up and lets both ends hang free. Cas has a smile on his face again, especially helpful now that he has pants on. For a change, his voice doesn't wobble as he speaks. "If our days off ever match up, maybe we can have a dance."

"Maybe we can." Mariah fiddles with the tie until it's just right, then she takes a step back to look him over, her head tilted a bit to the side. But she seems to approve, at least, if the smile on her face is anything to judge by. "I take it back. We definitely need to have a dance." When she looks up at his face again, her smile lessens just a touch before she adds, "If being seen with a women in my profession isn't disagreeable."

"If I were bothered by that I wouldn't have asked," Cas says, self consciously tugging on his sleeve. Nevermind he didn't exactly ask. It was more a passive statement than anything, but he still means it. "But I probably wouldn't've come here if I were bothered by it either." Even if he likes the way the women in these places smell, he probably could have found another option. Hands raise up, spreading in kind of an arm shrug, without his shoulders moving.

"What all do I owe ya?" he adds after a second, smiling fading a moment. "I have labour scrips— or a couple of other scarves. Some jewelry, but not much."

"Good to hear." Mariah moves to sit back on the bed, sighing a little as the matter of payment comes up. "Scrips'll do. Next time, take me out for drinks and I'll owe you." She pulls her feet up onto the bed, tucking them to the side. "Of course, how many scrips depends on if I'm getting you out of those clothes or not," she says with a crooked smile.

"'Fraid not," Cas says as he steps back away from the bed, moving to bend down to pick out a small handful of the leather strips with a stamp and the Rowntree name on them to show where they can be turned into something tangible. Not all of his scrips, but he's generous, really, considering. A moment passes and he disappears back into the room with the bath, to gather up his older clothes and shove them into the bag. Maybe he's decided to wear these clothes out anyway. At least for a short time— maybe as far as the tavern.

Walking over to the bed, he leans down and presses a brief kiss on her cheek before the scrips are placed in her hands. "Thank you, Mariah," he says with sincereity. "I look forward to doing this again in a week or two."